Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture, as compared with physiotherapy, in the management of chronic neck pain.
Design: Seventy adult patients with non-inflammatory neck pain of >6 weeks duration and with no abnormal neurology were randomly assigned to receive either of the treatments. Thirty-five patients were included in each group.
Outcome measures: Pain by visual analogue scale and neck pain questionnaire, improvement in range of movement of neck relative to baseline, and well-being (general health questionnaire). Measurements were recorded at the start of treatment, at 6 weeks and at 6 months.
Results: Both treatment groups improved in all criteria. Acupuncture was slightly more effective in patients who had higher baseline pain scores.
Conclusions: Both acupuncture and physiotherapy are effective forms of treatment. Since an untreated control group was not part of the study design, the magnitude of this improvement cannot be quantified.